"Rappaccini's Daughter" rpt. in Hawthorne's Mosses from an Old Manse (N.Y.: Wiley and Putnam, 1846)
After Hawthorne's short fiction had begun to appear regularly under his own name in several periodicals, as well as the Christmas annuals, he could begin to make the case to publishers for the profitability of reprinting the stories in a collection of his own design. This had the advantage of allowing Hawthorne to rearrange stories written over several decades and first published in orders determined by his editors. He could create a cumulative or contrasting impression by using one story to set readers up for the next, just as his previous editors had placed his stories near pieces they thought would set them off to advantage. Like a a band's touring playlist, a DJ at a dance or your favorite music mix, these short story collections were Hawthorne's first attempt at a large aesthetic accomplishment, and it helped him understand how to build his novels, which (after all) were just collections of chapter-sized stories that happened to involve a related cast of characters.
Strategy 1--read "R's D" in the context of the story that came before it: "R's D" reappeared in print twelve years later in Mosses from an Old Manse, where it immediately followed "Young Goodman Brown," a story about a man who comes to believe his wife has given her soul to the Devil, and, two stories before it, "The Birthmark," a story about a scientist who tries to use his science to improve a woman he loves. Most modern criticism of "Rappaccini" focuses on the story, itself, including Steven Mailloux's influential book chapter which uses the story to illustrate "temporal criticism," a Reader-Response method of discovering the author's sophisticated manipulation of readers' expectations and discoveries. What might readers of "Young Goodman Brown" learn that might influence their reading of "Rappaccini's Daughter"? What might those who read "R's D" immediately after either "Young Goodman Brown" or "The Birthmark" have thought about a story that depended upon Giovanni's perceptions of reality and the scientists' attempt to control Beatrice's biology? Why might Hawthorne have wanted to exclude from the later collected works edition the magazine version's preface with its ironic self-mockery of Hawthorne's own fictional style and of pompous Continental book reviewers? Even beginning to answer any of these questions (but not all of them!) would generate a thesis for your paper.
Strategy 2--read "R's D" in the context of the story that came after it: "R's D" is followed by a short satire called "Mrs. Bullfrog" which he had written five years after "MK,MM" and seven years before "R's D." This non-chronological order suggests Hawthorne intentionally juxtaposed the two stories. As its title suggests, it is one of Hawthorne's more nearly allegorical stories, in this case naming a pompous, puffed-up protagonist "Bullfrog" and stopping short of naming the title character "Mrs. Bad-Wife," but coming close enough to flattening her character (and Mr. Bullfrog's) that the effect is comic satire. But what is the target? This is the first sentence: "It makes me melancholy to see how like fools some very sensible people act, in the matter of choosing wives" (119). How might that sentence strike readers immediately after they had finished the last sentence of "R's D"? Could the story cause readers to re-evaluate Giovanni's behavior, or Beatrice's? Notice that here, too, an important female character is not named in the title with her own given name, but rather by her relationship to a male. Why? Again, beginning to answer one of these questions would generate the thesis of an original paper.
You also have the choice to digitally reconstruct that story-collection reading by reading the tales online, or to reproduce the actual print-edition reading experience Hawthorne's nineteenth-century readers would have had by reading them in print editions reserved for this 105 section in the Library's Special Collections room. Contact me or the Special Collections Librarian (x6467) to arrange to read the print editions in person.